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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  April 14, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today in support of judge garland's -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i ask to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today to talk about the opening on the supreme court, and today i'm going to focus my remarks on how important fillin the current vacancy on the supreme court is for our system of governance. when our founding fathers drafted the constitution, they envisioned a system of governance upheld by three branches of government. "the federalist papers," mr. president, outlined this balance of power in detail. in "federalist paper" number 51, james madison speaks about the importance of checks and balances among three branches of
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government. as madison states, "it is evident that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others." i don't think we always refer to ourselves as members of a department but what he meant by this, of course, is that there are three departments in our government -- the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. and in "federalist paper" 78 and 80, alexander hamilton writes about the important role of the federal judiciary in particular. the writings of the founders make clear that our democracy only works when all three branches are functioning. in recent years, gridlock has hobbled the ability of the legislative branch to function. although we have made some progress in starting to turn that around with the passage of the recent transportation, the education bills, the budget, we also, as we know, have had some very difficult times.
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fiscal cliff, the government shutdown. well, we cannot take that dysfunction to the third, as was called, department of government by james madison. that is the judiciary. we cannot have a supreme court that doesn't function, which is exactly what is happening as some continue to obstruct the process when all we want is a hearing. we've already witnessed the court split evenly without a ninth justice to break the tie this year. these types of decisions can prevent the court from responding to pressing issues in a timely fashion. in some decisions where there's been a 4-4 split, the result is effectively the same as if the supreme court never heard the case to begin with. and what if there was an emergency case like we had with bush v. gore? again, do we want a 4-4 split in a case like that? justice kagan has said that the current justices on the court are doing everything they can to avoid a 4-4 split, but that's
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not how it should work. often these types of decisions provide less guidance to states, offering them less legal certainty. last week i held a meeting of the steering and outreach committee where i heard firsthand about what a serious issue this is for state and local governments. you have patchwork decisions across the country with perhaps two years that will go by before you have a high court of the land that can decide which case and which decision rules when there is a split in the circuit. you can't continue to have a split on the court. and as the former chief prosecutor for minnesota's largest country, i know -- largest county, i know from my own experience how important it is to have an ultimate arbiter to settle the law of the land. cases challenging critical laws are now before the supreme cou court. we want those laws to rise or fall because the supreme court has decided the issue, not
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because of a 4-4 split. not because they were unable to do their job. but more split decisions is not the only risk that we are facing here. the current vacancy on the supreme court also has implications for the number of cases that the court is able to take in the first place. in march of last year, the u.s. supreme court granted certiorary took the case -- in eight cases. this year it only did so for two. the current situation is compromising the integrity of our judiciary. if we allow the supreme court to become a casualty of the polarization in our politics, if we let politics actually impede the court from having another justice from doing its job, people will lose confidence in the court. that is what sets our country apart. when you talk to companies across the world that want to invest in different countries, they look at the fact that we
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have a functioning judiciary. mr. president, i yield the floor. thank you. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that at 5:30 p.m. on monday, april 18, notwithstanding rule 22, the thune amendment number 3680 be agreed to, the substitute amendment, as amended, number 3679, be agreed to and the senate vote on the motion to invoke cloture on h.r. 636. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered.
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a senator: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. thune: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota thune mr. president, i can unanimous consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i would say again to my colleagues that we've made a lot of good headway on the f.a.a. reauthorization bill. we have continued throughout the day today as we did quite a ways into the evening last night, attempted to negotiate a path forth to adopt more amendments. we have a package of amendments that have been cleared. a number of our colleagues wanted votes on their
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amendments. we had objections raised on both sized -- sides which has prevented us from getting to final resolution here. we did adopt cloture this morning on the substitute with a very big vote, but we still have to have a cloture vote on monday on the underlying bill which will occur at 5:30. so i wanted to say to our colleagues that there will be no further roll call votes during today's session of the senate. and that we will proceed with the cloture vote on the underlying bill at 5:30 on monday and i would hope shortly after that get to final passage on the f.a.a. bill. so we can move on with other business in the senate. so i would ask unanimous consent that the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. thune mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum -- mr. thune: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call: quorum call:
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sthor senator mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. mr. king: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent this the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. king: mr. president, i rise today to speak about a bill that i'm introducing today along with senator coons and senator portman called the stop taxing death and disability act. it's a bill that responds to a tragic and unintended and, frankly, unsupportable policy, an inadvertent policy, i believe, of our government. senator coons has been a great leader on this and i also wants to express my appreciation to senator portman for joining me. not long after i was elected, i was contacted by a couple that live in topsom, maine, which is right across the river from my hometown of brunswick. donna and norah brennan. they're both retired navy veterans. and they had experienced a tragedy in their life that has
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inadvertently entangled them with the internal revenue service in a way that i think makes no sense. their son kegan graduated cum laude from the new hampshire institute of art and he had taken on federal and private loans in order to enable himself to get his education. he had a bright future. unfortunately, barely six months after he graduated, he passed away suddenly from nontraumatic brain aneurysm, a tragic loss which i think any of us as parents can only dimly appreciate or understand or empathize with. it is -- it is so unthinkable to lose a child in this way that it's -- it's just hard to conceive of. now, the federal government has recognized this kind of situation and forgives the
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student loan indebtedness of students who pass away in this situation. the federal government gets that part right. congress has already directed the department of education to forgive outstanding balances for borrowers who pass away as well as those funds borrowed by parents on behalf of a child who passes away. the same forgiveness provision, by the way, is also permitted for borrowers who suffer total and permanent disabilities, as certified by the social security administration or the department of veterans affairs. so far, so good. so far, logical and compassionate. but while the federal government solved that part of the problem, it inadvertently created another by recognizing that the tax code generally treats forgiven student debt as income in the year that it is discharged. because of this, this family in
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maine, who lost their son, were suddenly overnight faced with a $24,000 tax bill and a $6,000 tax bill from the state of maine because of its conformance with the federal law. in other words, you lose a chi child. the loans are forgiven but the forgiveness is treated as taxable income and suddenly in the midst of your grief, you're faced with pagan enormous one big tax bill on the entire amount of the loan being forgiven. in this case, the brennans couldn't possibly pay this in one -- in one instance and it makes no sense from the point of view of policy. it's the opposite of compassion. it's -- it's literally adding insult in this case to tragic injury. since 2012 when they lost their son, the brennans have struggled to make ends meet. they had to go into their
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401(k). they had to try to make some kind of arrangement with the -- with the i.r.s. and yet now they're in the process of paying this enormous tax off. this family in maine are not alone in facing this burden. my office has heard from other constituents in our state and our research indicates that there are at least several thousand across the country who are facing a tax bill in the midst of the most tragic and difficult circumstances. this just isn't right. it's something that we should fix. now, the department of education, as i said, does have it right and they're working with this. but until this unresolved tax issue is resolved, they can't move forward with an efficient way to provide these discharges. so the bill that we're introducing today, again with senator coons and senator portman, the stop taxing death
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and disability act, is a commonsense, compassionate and sensible response to this tragic event. if we're going to forgive the tax -- the student loan debt, which makes total sense and has been the law for some time, to not -- to then turn around and say that that loan forgiveness is a self-taxable and so in the midst of your grief, you're presented with a massive tax bill, just isn't right. it's not fair, it's not right, it's not compassionate and it isn't consistent with the earlier decision that has been made to discharge these loans under these tragic circumstances. i think it's time for congress to add the death and disability exemption to the tax code. i want to thank don and norah brennan for sharing this story with me. it can't be an easy story to share. for their service to this country in the united states
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navy and for their commitment to doing the right thing for their family. i hope and believe that we can find it in our wisdom here and in our hearts, frankly, to act on this bill to be sure that other families in america in the midst of their grief do not have to face this tragic situation. again, i want to thank senator coons and senator portman for joining me in this bipartisan effort to right a wrong, to correct a mistake, to act in the best principles of this institution and to act on behalf of this small group but important -- an important group who've suffered loss, to act to relieve this burden that should have never been in place in the first place. mr. president, i also want to address a second issue while i't
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is a conversation i had yesterday with judge merrick garland. we had the opportunity in my office to talk for about an hour, i don't know, 45 minutes to an hour. we talked about a wide range of topics. the president's -- the limits on the president's executive authority, how the court should provide oversight to regulatory agencies, the second amendment, the role of stare decisis, respect for precedence, general judicial philosophy, a whole number of issues. and i wanted to share with the senate some observations from that meeting. number one, the first thing that i thought of last night after reflecting upon this conversation is that i used to be in the judge appointing business. as governor of maine, i probably appointed 10 or 15 judges over my eight-year term, maybe more. i -- i don't have a specific number. but i do recall the process which brought judges in --
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prospective judges, by a judicial selection committee and then i would committee their qualifications and interview them in much the same way i did yesterday. and i always look for the same qualities. first, high le intellect, knowle of the law, nonpompocity. as a young lawyer, i didn't like pompous judges. i didn't like judges who are full of themselves, particularly when they're in positions of authority. so a kind of modest demeanor. and then finally a temperament whereby they can apply the law and make decisions without any discernible political or ideological bent. and, indeed, as i thought back on the conversation i had with judge garland yesterday, i realized he exactly fit those criteria. were he an applicant or a candidate for the supreme court of the state of maine and i was the governor, he'd be the kind of guy i was looking for.
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now, the other thing that i reflected on as i was thinking about this conversation is that i wish the people of america had been looking over my shoulder to hear the conversation, to hear the questions, to see his answers, to study his body language and how he approached these questions, how his mind works, how he thinks. and i thought about the fact that many of us are having these meetings with the judge over this weeks, many of us from both parties, and what we're doing is a kind of slow-motion hearing without the public being able to watch what's going on. and i think that's where we're missing the boat here on this nomination. now, i fully understand the -- the discretion that every senator has to make their -- their own decision whether or not this is a nomination that should go forward. but we are denying the american people the opportunity to participate in this process by not having a hearing and allowing them to see and hear and meet judge garland.
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i don't understand that. i don't understand -- well, i guess i do understand the politics -- and i'll talk about that in a minute -- but i don't understand why we are shutting the people out of this process. because if there was a hearing, it would probably go on for hours, there would be dozens of questions, the senators could ask all the questions they wanted and the public and the senators would be able to observe this man and get a feel for who he is and what he would bring to this job and the kind of person that he is. now, i haven't made a final decision if and when he is brought to the loor fo floor fo, i haven't yet decided how i will vote, although based upon my meeting yesterday, my work on his prior judicial experience and my knowledge of his reputation, i'm inclined to say "yes." but i want to see a hearing. i want to see how he does in that hot seat where he's asked difficult questions by our colleagues. and i want to see the reaction not only of the senators but of
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the people of america as they have a chance to meet justice -- judge garland. one of the things that concerns me about this process -- and ironically, justice roberts, chief justice roberts, commented on this just a few months ago, before the death of judge scalin of the supreme court. now, i'm not naive and i realize the supreme court makes important fundamental decisions. it's an important part of our governmental structure and it often makes far-reaching decisions that have effects on many people across the country. but i'm afraid that today we've gotten to the point where the supreme court is treated as almost like a third branch of congress. it's another political body. and instead of being elected by the people, it's being elected by the senators, and we're -- we're arguing about who gets to elect this so-called swing vote and which way the court is going to be. the supreme court should not be a political body, period.
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it should be a body made up of people -- my impression of judge garland is, of people who are servants of the law, who are students of the law, who are moderate and temperate. i called him -- i came out, i walked out and i thought, this guy is conservative with a small "c." he's a -- he's a modest man with a deep knowledge of the law and a razor sharp intellect but no political or ideological agenda that i could discern. i suspect if and when -- i believe it will ultimately be when -- he is confirmed, he will turn into a justice who will vote on one side of issues sometimes and make certain people happy and unhappy on other times. i think he's goingto be a straie judge who calls them as he sees them. and i think that's exactly what we need on the supreme court today. the other quality that he has demonstrated as chief judge of the circuit court is the ability
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to bring consensus. he's -- by all -- by all reports of people who have worked with him, judges, people who have known him, he's a consensus builder. he's not a -- he's not a flamboyant, strong, charismatic kind of guy. but he brings people together. he marshals the court. he works toward unanimity. he's not a fire brand. he's principled. but he is a consensus builder. and we definitely need that. 5-4 decisions, whichever way they go in the long run are not good for the country in my view because it divides us, and it illegitimatizes the court as a judicial arbiter of the constitution as opposed to a political branch, another political branch of our government. so i believe that what we should be doing is fulfilling our
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constitutional responsibility, not to vote yes necessarily. the constitution doesn't say the president shall nominate and we shall approve, but to consider, to advise and consent. and that involves a simple matter of a hearing which would include the american people in the process. there's a lot of discussion about here let's hear from the american people. the way to hear from the american people is to have hearing, let them watch. let them take the america of this person, and let us know how they think we should carry forth our constitutional responsibility in this case. i think he is -- appears to be from what i know so far an extraordinary candidate, not ideological, not partisan. i have no idea of his partisan background. i didn't even ask him. it occurred to me after perhaps i should have but i didn't. i know he's worked in the justice department. he's been a prosecutor. he's been a private attorney, and he's been a very well respected judge. i think he is a judge's judge, a
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lawyer's lawyer. and that's the kind of person i think we need on the court in this day and age. so i hope we can find a way to move to hearings,o allow the american people to participate in this process, to watch the process unfold, to get to know the judge, let us get to know him better, and then make our decision so that we can carry out our constitutional responsibility to advise and consent. that, i believe, is what we owe the constitution, and what we owe the people of the united states. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. a senator: thank you, mr. president, i would ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president, i rise today to discuss briefly the fight against isis and the sources of its financial support.
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as the administration accelerates the coalition military campaign against isis, i believe the administration must continue to intensify efforts to dismantle the financial networks that support this vicious terrorist organization. we know that isis operates like a criminal syndicate and profit from president illicit sale of oil, antiquities and other items through the black market all while extorting civilians that it has under its control. isis uses this funding to conduct terror attacks and control territory in both iraq and syria. they use it to buy more weapon, ammunition, components for improvised explosive devices that we know by the acronym i.e.d.'s. they also use this funding to
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pay for salaries for fighters and to develop propaganda materials to spread their hateful ideology. already we've seen evidence that both u.s. and coalition efforts against their financial networks, including air strikes on oil trucks and cache storage sites have had a meaningful impact on their finances, the finances of isis. there's evidence that isis has had to reduce the salaries they pay their fighters in recent months. that's good news. i believe that if we can cut off their money, we can significantly diminish their ability to operate. members of congress should support this effort in any way that we can. recently during the month of february, i traveled to four countries to focus on part of this effort. i visited israel, saudi arabia,
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turkey and cutter to press the foreign leaders in those countries, especially the last three, to accelerate the fight against terrorist financiers and facilitators. much more remains to be done to cut off the financing that isis receives. a recent report by the culture under threat task force describes isis as cultural racketeering as in owe and i quote -- industrial, methodical, and strictly controlled from the highest levels of the organization's leadership." this report further indicates that analysts warn that isis may try to increase, increase its antiquities trafficking activity as other revenue streams such as oil, oil sales are in fact cut off. so we have to be on guard for this and take action against it.
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i sponsored the senate version of the protect and preserve international cultural property act of 2015. this is a bill that would restrict the importation into the united states of antiquities smuggled out of syria since the beginning of the conflict. it also expresses the sense of congress that the administration should better coordinate among the many agencies with expertise and counterterrorism finances, counterterrorism finance and cultural heritage protection so there's better coordination within the administration. that's the aim of the legislation. this bill also sends a strong signal that the united states will not be a market for this illicit activity that only benefits terrorists and especially isis. and also will not be a market which funds any terrorist group and leads to the destruction of
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cultural heritage. so i want to thank senators perdue, grassley, coons and peat information their cosponsorship of this important legislation. and i'm pleased the senate passed it, the protect and preserve international cultural property act passed just last night. it's urgent that we send this bill to the president's desk. so, mr. president, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. peters: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. peters: thank you, mr. president. i rise to urge swift passage of the bipartisan federal aviation administration reauthorization act of 2016 currently pending on the senate floor. this legislation supports u.s. jobs and promotes competition while increasing safety in the national airspace system. and in the wake of the tragic attacks in brussels, the bill includes a number of important airport security reforms. we are proposing to invest in our nation's airports by authorizing a $400 million increase for the airport
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improvement program which airports across the nation rely on to modernize their infrastructure. we are seeking to preserve the federal contract tower program which supports commercial airports and emergency medical operations. michigan is a large state and our rural airports keep smaller communities across the upper peninsula in northern michigan competitive and connected. maintaining the essential air service programs supports airports that michiganders rely on such as the al pena airport and delta county airport. this bill also advances usage of unmanned aircraft systems known commonly as u.a.s. or drones. by addressing privacy issues, enhancing enforcement against irresponsible usage and the test of innovative technologies. i want to thank commerce
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committee chairman john thune and ranking member bill nelson for working with me during the markup progress for legislation that i offered with senator more ran with kansas. this important legislation will clear the way for our nation's students and educators to use u.a.s. technology for research, education, and job training. this will keep our research universities, workforce and manufacturers on the cutting epbl of global competitiveness as they develop the u.a.s. systems of the future that will drive our economy forward. our brightest minds will have the ability to design, to refine and to fly u.a.s. so that they can advance these technologies to help prepare our country for safe, widespread integration of u.a.s. into the national airspace system. this will support job creation across the income spectrum as our nation's workforce will be able to get the training they
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need to operate these systems both safely and efficiently. this legislation has the support of the association of public and land grant universities, the association of american universities and dozens of other colleges and universities across this country. in addition to advancing the next generation of civilian drone development, the reauthorization being considered also supports and protects the ability of our air national guard to safely and effectively operate remotely piloted aircraft or r.p.a.'s. i work to include legislation that helps international guard units across this country maintain their operations, including the michigan international guard's 110th attack wing in battle creek, michigan, which i had the privilege of visiting earlier this month. the 110th has two critical missions: op raeurpt m.q.9 reapers and cyber operations
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squadron. michigan is proud to host cutting edge, high-tech military operations that securely and effectively operate aircraft located thousands of miles away, supporting our troops that are deployed overseas. our troops have a high demand for remotely piloted aircraft which conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations as well as offensive strike operations. the air force is working hard to meet the demand for r.p.a.'s from commanders in theater and has already increased incentive pay for r.p.a. pilots and double pilot class sizes to keep up with the demand. international guard units based here in the united states but flying aircraft which could be anywhere else in the world and additional capacity to meet our global security needs. these are sensitive operations requiring very specific infrastructure that the international guard has invested in bases all across the country.
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as certain international guard units operating at civilian airports like battle creek transition from manned missions to remotely piloted aircraft missions, they are concerned that the airport where they lease their base could be forced to either raise their rent or risk losing eligibility for much-needed f.a.a. grants. i worked with my colleagues, senator cotton and ernst, on legislation to prevent this unfair and unnecessary choice for battle creek and other airports across the country. i am proud that this provision has been included in the legislation we are considering today which will prevent the f.a.a. from denying grant funding on the basis that an airport renews a low-cost lease with a military unit regardless of whether that unit operates aircraft physically stationed at the airport. while i understand the f.a.a.'s interest in ensuring that airports receive a fair rate for the space that they lease, i'm glad that this legislation will
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clarify that military units, including the national guard, can continue to receive nominal leases. if an airport and a military unit agree to renew a low-cost leashes, they should be able to -- low-cost lease they should be able to proceed without concern that the f.a.a. will revoke grant authority. the communities that host our military bases are proud of their role in national defense. these airports shouldn't have to choose between continuing to host a military tenant and maintaining eligibility for grants that can improve the safety and efficiency of local airport operations. again i want to applaud leader mcconnell, leader reid, chairman thune and ranking member nelson for the work on this important bipartisan legislation, and i urge my colleagues to support its passage early next week. madam president, i suggest the absence of a

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